JS Communications has finally settled for a reduced break-up fee in the drawn-out Rhythm & Hues bankruptcy saga. It’s been two months since troubled VFX house R&H sold out of bankruptcy to Prana Studios-led Holdings, LLC following a rollercoaster closed-door auction. At issue was the court-approved $425K fee promised to JS Communications as stalking horse bidder if a qualified rival beat them out for the Life Of Pi company, which JS was eyeing to buy. But in a hotly contested development, JS failed to meet a deadline to submit its bid (exec David Shim told me then that his dealings with Fox and Universal left him less than optimistic about buying R&H without future work assurances). Per a court document filed this week (read it here), JS will receive a $300K break-up fee. If approved in court on June 4, that should put the R&H saga to bed for the time being; multiple class action lawsuits against R&H filed by former employees have yet to be settled.
David Bloom is a Deadline contributor
Microsoft finally unveiled the Xbox One, its next-generation successor to the Xbox 360 game console, with an impressive demonstration of a voice- and gesture-controlled device focused more on integrating and controlling all kinds of entertainment and social capabilities far beyond just playing videogames. The #XboxReveal event at Microsoft’s Seattle-area campus included the announcement by Xbox Entertainment Studios President Nancy Tellem that Steven Spielberg will create a new live-action TV show based on the “Halo” game franchise. In a video, Spielberg, a longtime game fan who also oversaw the launch of the DreamWorks Interactive game studio in the 1990s, briefly said “the Halo universe is an amazing opportunity to be at an intersection where technology and myth-making converge.”
Alison Brie has signed with WME. She was at UTA. Brie currently juggles two series — she is a female lead on NBC’s cult comedy Community, which recently was renewed for a fifth season, and recurs on AMC’s Emmy-winning drama Mad Men. Additionally, Brie stars in the indie Kings Of Summer. She continues to be managed by Scott Fish at Velocity Entertainment Partners and repped by David Weber.
CMT has picked up an additional 11 episodes of Dog And Beth: On The Hunt, bringing the reality show’s freshman season to 22 episodes. Production on the new episodes will begin immediately for an August airdate. Through its first five weeks on air, Dog And Beth, starring bounty hunters ‘Dog’ and Beth Chapman, ranks as CMT’s top current series, averaging more than 1 million total viewers. The Electus-produced show also has developed a big social media following. Original episodes air Sundays at 8 PM.
UPDATE, 11:08 AM: Apple‘s part of today’s proceedings is over after Sen. Carl Levin finally drew blood. He hammered CEO Tim Cook and other Apple execs for creating business arrangements that ensured that the company’s “crown jewels” — economic rights to more than two-thirds of its worldwide profits — “are in three Irish companies that you control and don’t pay taxes.” Cook acknowledged that he has “no current plan” to bring that cash “home at the current tax rate.” Levin noted that this was entirely Apple’s choice: The arrangement in Ireland was signed by “three people working for Apple.” He also observed that the company repatriates profits from Latin America and Canada but not elsewhere. “We cannot continue a system where a multinational company as phenomenally successful as you can make a decision as to where the profits are going to flow. An American company where the R&D is 95% in the United States. You had R&D tax credits, all the benefits of living in this country, [including] protection of patents….You made a unilateral decision where these profits are going to be taxed or not taxed. Folks, that is not right.”
PREVIOUS, 10:13 AM: Tim Cook seems to be in command so far in his appearance before the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to defend Apple against charges that it parks cash overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes. He began his testimony throwing down a gauntlet calling for “dramatic simplification” of U.S. corporate taxes. “Apple has always believed in the simple, not the complex,” he said adding that it should also apply to the tax code. He called for a revenue-neutral change that would lower corporate income tax rates and provide for “a reasonable tax”– which he said should be a single digit percentage — “that allows the free flow of capital back to the United States.” It would probably increase Apple’s U.S. taxes, he says, but “it would promote U.S. economic growth.”
EXCLUSIVE: CAA has signed Joel Kinnaman, the Swedish actor who plays the title role in the Jose Padilha-directed Robocop for MGM. Kinnaman had been repped by UTA. He’s a rising star whose breakout came in the Daniel Espinosa-directed Snabba Cash, and the AMC series The Killing. Kinnaman is in production on Child 44, which Espinosa is directing with Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace for Summit Entertainment, with Scott Free producing. Once he wraps that, he stars with Liam Neeson in Run All Night, the Jaume Collet-Serra-directed thriller for Warner Bros. The Killing returns for Season 3 on June 2. Kinnaman continues to be managed by Shelley Browning of Magnolia Entertainment.
Related: Magnolia Manager Vs UTA, Round Two
Steven Soderbergh tonight unveils what he says is his final feature film Behind The Candelabra. The film explores the secret father/son/lover relationship between Liberace (Michael Douglas) and his valet Scott Thorson. It’s playing in competition here at Cannes, even though HBO will premiere it in the U.S. on Sunday before it gets a traditional overseas theatrical release. If that seems complex, it fits Soderbergh, a true maverick who has always been up for putting himself on the line for disruptive, ground breaking fare. The That began with sex, lies and videotape. That movie won the Audience Award at Sundance and the Palm d’Or at Cannes before grossing nearly $25 million in 1989. It is viewed as the picture that turned indie film into a viable business. “He is the father of this movement,” said Harvey Weinstein, who distributed the film. “Before him, there was no independent movie that did more than $5 million. This was the one that went out, almost wide, in the summer where they said these films could not play, and broke the art house ghetto.” Two Oscars (for directing Erin Brockovich and Traffic) later, and a career that spanned every genre and enterprising release strategy (he aroused the ire of theater owners by road testing the day and date release platform that is now a Sundance deal staple), the 50-year old Soderbergh unveils his last feature film tonight with Behind The Candelabra.
Related: Steven Soderbergh’s State Of Cinema Talk
DEADLINE: All week, I’ve heard people here debate whether Michael Douglas and Matt Damon will lost possible Oscar nominations because the film plays first on HBO, before a more traditional international theatrical roll out. You intended originally to be an indie feature. Explain the gyrations that ended up with this unusual release strategy.
SODERBERGH: We were trying to get the last $5 million to finish it off.The movie cost $22 million and change. We’d raised $18 million foreign and we just needed this piece. Superficially it would seem like a no-brainer but when you look at the realities of the economics of putting a movie into wide release, you have to gross $65 million-$75 million dollars just to get out. People just didn’t have that appetite for this kind of material.
Looks like Disney wasn’t quite done dropping trailers for the Disney tentpole starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer. The Lone Ranger bows July 3.
ESPN just released a statement confirming the cuts, which were first reported by Deadspin. Said the company: “We are implementing changes across the company to enhance our continued growth while smartly managing costs. While difficult, we are confident that it will make us more competitive, innovative and productive.” If the language sounds familiar, it’s because it is: ESPN is 80% owned by Disney (Hearst owns the other 20%), which has gone division by division to cut costs over the past month or so. Layoffs have already hit the Walt Disney Studios unit (150 layoffs in film, theatrical and music departments) and shuttered LucasArts, the video game division of Disney’s newly acquired Lucasfilm. Previously, Disney Interactive laid off about 50 employees. Now not even super-profitable ESPN, which has about 7,000 employees overall, is immune to the cost-cutting review, and with recent major purchases of spendy live sports rights (the college football playoffs and U.S. Open tennis among the recent deals) it looks like they’ve been told to tighten the ship.
EXCLUSIVE: Writer-producers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky have signed a new two-year overall deal with ABC Studios. The Office alums serve as executive producers/showrunners on two new comedy series sold under their previous deal with the studio, Trophy Wife at ABC and Hello Ladies at HBO. Additionally, Eisenberg and Stupnitsky, who wrote the 2011 feature Bad Teacher, executive produced Sony TV’s comedy pilot adaptation, which nears a midseason series order at CBS. “Lee and Gene are hugely prolific and quite possibly the hardest working comedy writers out there today,” said ABC Studios SVP Development Patrick Moran. “We are thrilled to have them attached to our new comedy Trophy Wife.”
Over the last two years, Eisenberg and Stupnitsky developed projects at ABC, FX, HBO and Comedy Central through their Quantity Entertainment. Emily Brecht, who has been with the company since 2011, is being promoted to Director of Development and will oversee day-to-day operations. She previously worked at the Department of Defense. “As a policy, we always look to hire employees who are smarter than us,” Eisenberg and Stupnitsky said. “That said, we look forward to Quantity’s next chapter as Emily becomes a principal partner and eventually ousts us.”
UPDATE: Broadcast Nets Expand Nightly News For Tornado Coverage; NBC To Air Live Special In ‘Voice’ Recap Slot
UPDATED, 9:40 AM: ABC News and NBC News said they will expand their evening newscasts to an hour tonight to cover the aftermath of the Oklahoma tornado that so far has killed 24 including many children stuck in their schools. On CBS, the CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley is expanding to 90 minutes from 6:30-8 PM. ABC also is airing a special edition of Nightline dedicated to tornado coverage, and ABC News’ David Muir, Ginger Zee, and Mike Boettcher will report in from Oklahoma this afternoon on Katie.
PREVIOUS, MONDAY PM: The network and its sister outlets MSNBC and the Weather Channel will focus Tuesday on coverage of today’s massive twister that cut a huge swath of destruction near Oklahoma City. Along with live coverage from devastated Moore, OK, on NBC’s Today and MSNBC’s morning programs, the broadcast network will air a one-hour special hosted by Brian Williams live from the scene at 8 PM ET (delayed in other time zones). That will pre-empt a recap show of The Voice featuring the top 10 performances; a new live episode of the singing competition will air as scheduled in the 9 PM hour.
Ricky Gervais writes, directs, exec produces, and stars in the original series about a naive man who works in a nursing home, which Netflix will debut at 12:01 AM PT on September 12. Derek already premiered in the UK via Channel 4. The show will launch stateside and in international Netflix territories including Canada, Ireland, Latin America, Brazil and the Nordics in seven 30-minute episodes launching simultaneously. A second season has already been renewed. David Earl, Karl Pilkington and Kerry Godliman star in the comedy-drama series as fellow care workers. Derek is produced by Derek Productions Ltd. for Netflix.
EXCLUSIVE: The Weinstein Company has won the bidding for the Keanu Reeves-Reese Witherspoon sci-fi romance movie Passengers. I’m hearing the distributor has committed to a multi-million dollar minimum guarantee and a P&A commitment in the $25 million range for a wide release in 2014. I understand FilmDistrict and Open Road were in the mix here in Cannes for the project, which was written by Prometheus scribe Jon Spaihts and will be directed by Game Of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire helmer Brian Kirk in his major feature film debut. Wayfare Entertainment is financing and producing the pic. The plot: A spacecraft transporting thousands of people to a distant colony planet has a malfunction in one of its sleep chambers. As a result, a single passenger (Reeves) is awakened 90 years before anyone else. Faced with the prospect of growing old and dying alone, he eventually decides to wake up a second passenger (Witherspoon), marking the beginning of what becomes a unique love story. The script was developed by Stephen Hamel and Reeves at their production shingle Company Films. Hamel is producing with Wayfare CEO Ben Browning. Start Media’s Michael Maher and Lynwood Spinks are executive producing. CAA repped domestic sales rights; Exclusive Media has international rights.
The Weinsteins have been major players at Cannes, having already won the first big bidding battle of the festival by acquiring the Judi Dench movie Philomena — directed by Stephen Frears and co-starring Steve Coogan — based on seven minutes of footage shown to buyers. In addition, TWC landed U.S. and other territories for Suite Française, based on Irene Nemirovsky’s novel about a young woman who lives with her controlling mother-in-law in Nazi-occupied France and ends up falling for a German officer. Michelle Williams, Matthias Schoenaerts and Kristin Scott Thomas star. The company’s alt-distribution label Radius-TWC meanwhile picked up North American rights to Blue Ruin, one of the few U.S. titles screening in the Directors’ Fortnight section.
The daily pop culture series will feature gossip columnists dishing on hot topics in a panel format. The Gossip Table will premiere on VH1 on Monday, June 3 at 9 AM as a summer replacement for Big Morning Buzz Live With Carrie Keagan, which is on summer break. Big Morning Buzz executive producer Shane Farley is exec producing Gossip via his Cypress E Prods.
This is curious: Carmike was a founding partner at Fandango, and last year the companies announced that they had extended their “multi-year strategic agreement.” But it appears that deal wasn’t exclusive — and Carmike wants another option. Today the chain says that it will also use Fandango’s chief rival, MovieTickets.com, to sell tickets online. Carmike is “delighted to forge this new alliance with MovieTickets.com,” the exhibition chain’s CEO David Passman says. “Carmike patrons appreciate flexibility in their advance ticket purchasing and we are pleased to be adding MovieTickets.com.” It’s highly unusual for a chain to offer two online sales options. The Boca Raton-based digital operation already serves the Rave theaters that Carmike recently bought. The new agreement will soon add Carmike’s 2,200 other screens. This is “the single largest domestic addition to our screen count since the company was founded in 2000,” MovieTickets.com CEO Joel Cohen says. “Carmike is highly influential in our industry, we are pleased they chose to join our program and collectively work with us to improve the movie going experience.”
CORE Media Group is said to be testing the market to sell off Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion and rights to images of Presley and Muhammad Ali. The Financial Times reports the assets could fetch more than $200M. Citing people familiar with the matter, the FT says CORE, which co-produces American Idol, is eyeing bidders in Asia, Europe and the U.S. for Elvis Presley Enterprises and Muhammad Ali Enterprises. The Raine Group has been hired to advise. However, if it is not satisfied with offers, CORE could retain the properties. Combined, the assets generate about $60M a year in revenues.